The prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case may be forced off the case because of a conflict of interest related to ethics charges filed against him.
The ethics charges were filed against District Attorney Mike Nifong on Thursday by the North Carolina bar. The charges generally accuse Nifong of violationg the professional conduct rules for attorneys by making misleading comments about the athletes accused in the case.
The North Carolina bar said it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, two weeks after the stripper at a lacrosse team party alleged she was gang raped.
Nifong claims he was only trying to get information to the community and encourage those with information to come forward. However, the bar’s charges included 41 quotes and eight paraphrased statements made by Nifong to reporters about the lacrosse players’ credibility and reputation.
Included in the statements cited by the bar:
- Referring to the lacrosse players as “a bunch of hooligans.”
- “I am convinced there was a rape, yes, sir.”
- “One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong.”
He is also accused of telling reporters that the Duke players were not cooperating with the investigation and were refusing to make statements to law enforcement.
Nifong is further accused of breaking a bar rule against “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation” when he told a reporter that the failure to find any DNA evidence against an accused lacrosse player mmight be because he used a condom. The bar alleges that Nifong knew this assertion was misleading because he had received an emergency report showing the accuser said the attackers did not use condoms.